Saturday, April 25, 2009

Capitalism vs Free Markets

This news is a bit stale now but I do think it interesting. Those who know me well, know that I'm an unabashed, unapologetic (albeit generally pragmatic) capitalist - and though Greg Mankiw points to a Rasmussen poll a few weeks ago with the lead quote "Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism," and even Club for Growth calls it a "depressing poll of the day," if you read on, Americans seem to differentiate between capitalism and free markets.

While some socialists (or socialist-lite individuals) might herald the poll as a success, as Rasmussen's own report notes:

It is interesting to compare the new results to an earlier survey in which 70% of Americans prefer a free-market economy. The fact that a “free-market economy” attracts substantially more support than “capitalism” may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets.

Other survey data supports that notion. Rather than seeing large corporations as committed to free markets, two-out-of-three Americans believe that big government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

This provides context for the recent tea parties (not to mention the absurd vitriol from dead tree media) - that Americans haven't abandoned basic and historically the only principles that result in wealth - individual liberty. While far from ideal, the only thing that opponents have been successful at is smearing capitalism with the idea that crony capitalism is its natural state.

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